New York’s Cell Phone & Electronic Device Laws To Get Even Tougher


Thanks to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s focus on the eliminating the dangers of distracted driving, New York State has enacted some of the toughest laws to combat this epidemic.  Through the years, we have seen illegally using a cell phone  (VTL 1255-c) and electronic device (VTL 1225-d) go from 0 points to 5 points.  Plus, these laws are widely and routinely enforced throughout the state and hopefully are shaping safer driving habits.

Traffic tickets issued for illegally using a cell phone allege that the police officer saw you engaged in a call at the time he observed you driving without using a hands-fee device.  In contrast, tickets for illegally using an electronic device allege that you were “using” that device while driving “in motion”.  You can violate this law by simply holding the device and looking at the screen.  Of course, swiping, pushing and texting are all also prohibited by VTL 1225-d.

Citing statistics which shows that 94% of fatal crashes are the result of driver error, the Governor will advance legislation this year to tighten up these laws even further.  Specifically, among other things, the proposal calls for eliminating the “in motion” language from VTL 1225-d.  The effect of such a change would mean that drivers cannot legally “use” electronic devices while stopped at a red light or in traffic.  As a practical matter, we often see motorist written up for using devices while stopped anyway but this change will make it even harder for motorists to defend themselves from such tickets.

The Governor also proposes to prohibit drivers under the age of 18 from using an electronic device.  I suspect that this means that young drivers would not be able to use a cell phone while driving (even with a hands-free device) and that there will be enhanced penalties for such drivers.

I expect these measures to be approved and effective by the summer.  Of course, I will post another article when they are enacted.

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • There are, of course, several problems with these laws.

    First, Title 47 United States Code, Section 333 prohibits any interference with “licensed uses” of the airwaves. Cell phones are such a licensed use. So any cell phone tickets should be removed to the U.S. District Court for adjudication consistent with 47 USC 333.

    Second, an action could / should be brought against the issuing officer and jurisdiction.

    Third, given that so many devices are electronic, the law is clearly overbroad. Can one be prosecuted for looking at a wristwatch (virtually all are electronic, even “mechanical” ones that use a quartz timer.

    Fourth, Is there any rational basis for the legislation? What is the evidence that a hand held device is more dangerous than a fixed device? And if there is no difference, may one look at a speedometer in the dashboard (all are electronic today), but not at a hand held speedometer (such as a smart phone device that uses GPS and is probably more accurate since it doesn’t depend on tire pressure)?

    Fifth, may one use an old camera with no electronic metering (but requires considerable intervention), but not a modern fully automatic digital SLR?

    Isn’t the law arbitrary, capricious, and without any basis in fact?

    Doesn’t enforcement expose the public to serious risk of injury and death?

    • Eugene Falik,

      As always, thanks for following my blog and share your insightful thoughts. These ideas are all interesting and await judicial scrutiny whenever someone brings them to court.

      Matthew Weiss

  • Question is: Who is going to crack down on the law enforcement agent committing the same offense? The commit that offense a lot more than the average citizen, from what I observed.

    • Roger M,

      Police officers should not violate traffic laws unless it is done in the course of official police business. Of course, as you point out, who is going to enforce this? I cannot say, however, that they do so more than the average citizen.

      Matthew Weiss


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